He awoke with a start, his heart pounding from the strange dreams that heâ€™d had. He had no idea how long heâ€™d slept. The inky darkness stretched all around him â€¦ and the silence, the silence was deafening. His pulse still racing and joints aching, he felt all alone. He tried to shake off the stupor of sleep still clinging to him. Something felt different, somehow, and he felt a frisson of fear, quickly followed by a sensation of vague familiarity. Unable to put his finger on it, he shrugged it off as the sluggishness of his disturbed sleep. A blanket of inertia (or was it ennui? â€¦ he couldnâ€™t quite tell) descended upon him as he peered into the darkness.
He thought about the strange dreams heâ€™d had â€“ of travel, new beginnings and faces of children he did not recognize. He smiled at the thought of children â€“ he had grown up together with several of them, whose names and faces he still fondly remembered, for how could you forget those who had been young together with you? He had watched other children grow up as well, over the years, their names and faces imprinted on his mind. He could still hear the laughter and happy shouts of children at play, jumping into piles of raked autumn leaves, as the sky changed from blue to gold.
He remembered the colourful riot of spring flowers in bloom and sun-dappled mornings, as spring gambolled around bestowing a delightful freshness to everything in its path. He recalled the heady days of summer, of sun-drenched afternoons, the buzzing of bees and picnics by the lake shimmering with the kisses of sunshine sparkles. Even rainy days elicited such blissful laughter and adventure, as the fun moved indoors and make-believe castles, sand dunes and tents on the African savannah came to life right before his eyes. He fondly remembered the traditions of Christmases past, of food-laden tables groaning under the weight of family dinners and magnificent fir trees resplendent in red and gold. He had seen family traditions evolve over time and that Maugham quote heâ€™d first heard by the roaring fire on a snow-flecked Christmas Eve â€“ â€œTradition is a guide and not a jailerâ€ â€“ flitted across his mind, like a butterflyâ€™s gossamer wings. While he loved the distinctive traits of each season, he felt a special affinity with autumn, Keatsâ€™ â€œSeason of mists and mellow fruitfulnessâ€ â€“ there was something about autumn that stirred the depths of his soul and made him feel gloriously alive. His eyes welled with tears as he thought of his childhood home in a little town and the ever-changing, always gorgeous autumnal hues of Mother Natureâ€™s palette of glowing oranges, blazing reds and glorious yellows, and the cool, crisp and invigorating air he loved so deeply.
He sighed wearily at the vagaries of time, a dull ache in his heart for times long gone. How did the years slip away so quickly, almost in the blink of an eye? He wished that there was someone there he could talk to, but then again, he had never been much of a conversationalist, but oh, how he loved to listen. People always liked a good listener, he knew that. And it was amazing just how much one could learn by listening. A wave of nostalgia washed over him, as half-remembered conversations came flooding back â€¦ conversations on diverse topics such as art, music, books, movies and even decluttering. Decluttering, now there was a topic that seldom failed to arouse immediate interest and it seemed as if everyone (and their dog) had an opinion. He recalled animated conversations about obligation clutter and guilt, of finding good homes for special items, and of right-sizing. Heâ€™d lost count of the number of times heâ€™d heard that William Morris quote: â€œHave nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautifulâ€. He agreed whole-heartedly with that quote though and even understood why obligation clutter could be such a burden, capable of breeding guilt, anger and resentment. He was convinced that valued items such as family heirlooms should be passed on to someone who would appreciate them, even if they were not family. For what could be worse than languishing unloved and unwanted in the deep, dark recesses of someoneâ€™s home? A wisp of a sigh escaped his lips as he fell into a wistful reverie.
His musings were interrupted by the sound of approaching footsteps. They came closer and he heard the creak of the door as it opened. â€œThatâ€™s funnyâ€, he thought, â€œI never noticed that creaking beforeâ€. A ray of light from the passageway outside dimly illuminated the room as he saw a silhouette enter and the sudden, sharp intake of his breath shattered the silence. She looked different. She strode towards the other side of the room and he held his breath and watched silently.
She drew the heavy drapes and flung open the windows. The sheer day curtains fluttered merrily like butterflies in the fresh breeze that gushed in, as golden sunlight enveloped the room. He inhaled deeply, momentarily distracted by the dust motes dancing in the sunbeams shining into the room, and just as it dawned on him that he was breathing in the very air he loved, he saw it â€¦ that sweeping panoramic vista from his childhood. Lookout Mountain. In Ringgold, Georgia. He was home again.
As she turned away from the windows, her gaze fell on the newly-arrived blanket chest and she smiled.
On 22 May 2015, Jeff shared his story (in the comments section) about a blanket chest that had been in his family for two centuries. Here are excerpts from his comments:
â€œAfter we moved into our new home, a blanket chest handed down in my motherâ€™s family for two hundred years to the oldest daughter just didnâ€™t fit. Our daughter, who is a wonderful young lady (otherwise!) didnâ€™t have the slightest interest in it. My mother really treasured it, but I finally came to the conclusion I could part with it. I contacted a cousin who still lives on the original property in Georgia where it came from and asked her if she wanted it. She was thrilled! So I sent it back to its original home. That felt so good and liberating, knowing it would be lovingly taken care of and that I didnâ€™t have to warehouse it anymore. I know also that my mother would be happy it was â€œback home.â€ Just today I sent the same cousin some Civil War papers from our great-grandfather who lived on that property. Again, what a relief! They wonâ€™t be blown away in a tornado, destroyed in a fire, or thrown away by those cleaning out our house when we die. â€¦
â€¦ I sent it to Ringgold. My mother was born there about 1/4 mile south of the TN line. She always considered it home; the original house is there from the 1860s, with a gorgeous view of Lookout Mt. And the best part, I think, is that relatives still own that part of the property; it has never been sold! â€¦
â€¦ It was made I think in the 1830s or so as a wedding gift from a father to his daughter, and it has been handed down to the oldest daughter since. In generations with no daughters, as in my grandfatherâ€™s (he was the oldest of his brothers) and mine – Iâ€™m an only child – the chest is kept for the next girl born. Iâ€™m breaking the tradition, but sending it back home, at least to me, makes up for that. The chest is in great shape for its age, btw.â€
I kept thinking of the stories that chest could tell if it could talk â€“ of people, places and events through the ages and that was how this story, a different perspective on decluttering, came to life. And the fact that the chest ended up back in Georgia made me think about how a new beginning can be created with another family, even if the sands of time run out for an heirloom, and how traditions that were once well-begun, have the potential to evolve and continue in the hands of others. The things that we no longer have a use for can have new beginnings with someone else, if we are willing to let go.
So, have you had to deal with any family heirlooms or re-home special items that had become obligation clutter? Or have you decluttered any traditions that, for whatever reason, you were unable or unwilling to continue? Do share your experiences.
For those not familiar with the story of Jeff and the granny chest here is a link to his comment.
Today’s Mini Mission
Gather up a group of similar items that have spread throughout your home. That may be pens, hair ties, nail files, small toolsâ€¦ Once you have them all together declutter the excess and store the rest in one place.
â€œIf we do not feel grateful for what we already have, what makes us think weâ€™d beÂ happy withÂ more?â€ â€” Unknown